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Guardian sightings and the email and bath plug agenda

Posted on 15 April 2009 | 11:04am

It says
something about the kind of (left of centre) visitors we have up here in
Scotland that on successive days we have had sightings of The Guardian. 

Sighting one, on Monday, had a short extract from my blog on the Damian
McBride affair, followed by a line from right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes which
looked like it was written by me. That has led to a correction in today’s
paper, the readers’ editor told me last night, so fair play to them.

Sighting two, of yesterday’s paper, was even more alarming than the notion
that I might write the same things as Mr ‘Fawkes.’

Namely the front page story on a survey of climate change scientists who now
seem hugely doubtful that agreed efforts to restrict global warming to 2C will
succeed.

Instead, they fear an average rise of 4-5C by the end of the
century because of rising carbon emissions and political constraints on curbing
them.

A quick turn to page 14 explains what that means… ‘Much human habitation in
southern Europe, north Africa, the Middle East and other sub-tropical areas is
rendered unviable due to excessive heat and drought… All sea ice is gone from
both poles; mountain glaciers are gone from the Andes, Alps and
Rockies.’

It said nothing we didn’t know already, but perhaps it was the fact I was
reading it in such beautiful surroundings that led it to make the impact upon
me that it did.

I found myself dreaming last night about the North Pole melting and a
grey-white tsunami coming through the Highlands of Scotland.

I woke up relieved the hills were still there, but
anxious they might not be forever.

If the G20 Summit was key to the future of the global economy, Copenhagen in a
few months’ time is even more central to the saving of the planet.

There was a sub-heading in the Guardian story that caught my eye too – ‘Public
doesn’t realise how serious climate change is.’

Awareness is growing though. The question is whether it grows fast enough for
those political constraints to weaken.

It would help too if our own political debate was not dominated by the cost of
bath plugs and dirty tricks emails.

And I find it fascinating that David Cameron, who made such a big thing of the
environment when he first became Tory leader, now seems to have parked the
issue in favour of the email and bathplug agenda.

  • Peter Moore

    Excellent points.

    Any sane person must realise by now that the ongoing environmental calamity has much more severe potential consequences than this economic one. But I’m still not sure whether the credit crunch and all the panic will serve as a distraction to environmental issues, or get people enthusiastic enough with action to get things done. We’ll see.

    But I read an article recently from a scientist who claimed that: ‘all told, a financial crisis is the most benign, mild sort of crisis that a society can possibly experience’. (not exact wording) – and his point, I thought was a good one. I’m glad you’ve tried to deflect interest in the right direction with the blog post, although you wouldn’t really expect Cameron et al to ignore the McBride thing, would you?

    It was interesting that Sir David Attenborough, an unexcitable man full of common sense, has just become a patron of a group seeking to cut the growth in the human population. Idealistic, I know, and it’s probably not going to work. But then is global politics capable of anything better?

    I’m not quite as gloomy as James Lovelock on this one. America in particularly is a ‘can do’ nation and they’ll be at the front of any attempts to solve the problem of CO2, but if you go along with Lovelock, then by the end of the century the Sahara will be up to Berlin, climate migrants will be the biggest problem on the planet, and the population will have dropped from around 6 billion to around half.

    I’m glad that you’ve written this down because, after all, you were one of the most powerful people in the country for long enough for it to matter, and it’s comforting that it properly being talked about and considered where it counts. I hope that some people find the time to read this post, and maybe think about it for a little while afterwards.

    Peter Moore (no relation to Suzanne)

  • Roger Clague

    Global warming stopped 10 years ago.

    NuLiebore sleeze has not and will not until they are removed from government

  • Em

    In the aftermath of 9/11, I read that human beings cannot conceive of human losses more than a few hundred people at a time. Once you get passed a certain number, the scale of the tragedy becomes less meaningful to the psyche. That struck me because I remember only getting out on my numbness late in the day on 9/11, when CNN announced three hundred firefighters perished at the Word Trade Centre.

    Assimilation of information does not guarantee qualitative understanding and emotional response. These cognitive shortcomings seem to apply to the environment as well.

    We grasp what is likely to touch us personally. You and the Scottish Highlands. For another it will be sea levels engulfing the Maldives. For me, it’s having only a year or two to see snow on Kilimanjaro. I’m also paranoid about the scarcity of drinking water on North American soil within my life time.

    We get glimpses of the biggest of what’s coming at times, but it’s not enough.

    No one should undermine the importance of conquering the human proclivity to mount psychological defences in the face of global environmental collapse. Intellectual knowledge alone will not lead to the kind of behaviour modification required to save the human race.

    (and please, no more talk of “saving the planet”. Planet will go on. This is all about our own puny existence.)

  • Wyrdtimes

    “It would help too if our own political debate was not dominated by the cost of bath plugs and dirty tricks emails.”

    Quite so. Might I suggest that well paid politicians stop claiming for things like bath plugs on their expenses and Number 10 stops it’s smear tactics.

    Eh?

  • Charlie

    @AC”……. followed by a line from right-wing blogger Guido Fawkes……..”

    Just because he causes information to come into the public domain that the Government of the day would rather remained secreted in the bunker, does not make Guido right-wing. Just an effective reporter.

    I am quite sure that Guido will strike the same fear and trepidation into the hearts of the Conservatives when they become the Government next year.

  • Michael

    I too find it fascinating that despite these huge problems facing the planet, Downing Street employed Damian MacBride to dream up his malicious stories. If only the tories were as high minded as Labour, eh?

  • Ian Eastwood

    My question on climate change is. Are we making a futile effort and only delaying slightly the inevitable? Over the last two hundred years or so man has done more damage to the planet than in the last two thousand.

    So will people change and put the planet first? Sorry don’t think so.
    Like a good citizen I recycle my waste insulate my home have energy saving bulbs in the house. But is this going to save the earth from Armageddon is it bollocks.

    Let’s take a couple of football examples who thought it was a good idea to fly thousands of Man Utd and Chelsea fans all the way to Russia for a champions league final? Who thinks is a good idea to get thousands of fans from Everton and Manchester to Wembley for a Semi final when Anfield although smaller would do? I travel 150 miles to watch a home game at Turf Moor. Why because I can. Whilst people have the resource e.g. Money to buy and do the things they desire whilst not deliberately setting out to bugger the planet up that’s what they will do.

    Two dirty men of the world China and India trying to drag themselvs out of poverty by providing so called cheap consumer goods. How cheap is it to clean up the mess they make? When they do get a decent standard of living what do they desire? Cars TV’s travel, air con units, all the stuff we have that produces Co2. So can they not have it? Try stopping them. When they have finished where the cheap labour come from next will it be Africa? that should be fun.

    As for the G20s solution to the economic crisis consumer spending, if we all go out and buy more goods surely that will only add to the climate change problem.

    I hear the French fishermen are blocking the ports this morning because they are unhappy about the fishing quotas they have been offered. Why are the seas empty? Couldn’t be over fishing could it?

    The Japanese are unhappy because they only managed to kill 680 whales instead of the 900 they had hope for, causing the price of whale meat to rise, adding to there economic woes. Putting the blame on environmentalist for disrupting the hunt.

    Thinking about the rising sea levels as I sit in leafy South Cheshire, and wonder how long it will be before the Potteries are underwater I am consoled by the fact that every cloud has a silver lining even if it is toxic and I only have to drive down the A500 to get to the beach.

    There’s only one thing that will sort it out Mother Nature when she’s had enough she will wipe the lot out and start again. Some might say the sooner the better. Because man may slow it down but stop or reverse it never!

  • Charlotte MacKenzie

    I think the local environment has a big impact on how people imagine the threat of climate change. In Cornwall, rising sea levels would have a devastating effect and people can see that.

    However, that doesn’t make it an everyday issue like the cost of living. Many people seem sceptical about whether the scientists have got this one right – even though you might expect scientific consensus to be respected. It has a ‘millenium bug’ feel – people still aren’t sure whether problems were prevented or didn’t exist.

    Mobilising imagination may reach more people.

  • Alina Palimaru

    AC, why are you fascinated that DC relegated his environmental agenda to a secondary position? To me, this just says he cannot multi-task. The moment something overwhelming comes along (e.g. economic crisis), or some non-issue that he can cling to in order to demonstrate what he thinks are leadership skills, he loses focus.

    Another explanation might be the fact that he just realized his climate change policies are very inconsistent with his obsessive embrace of the market. His list of proposals includes the following:

    –Making it illegal for energy companies to charge unfair price premiums on prepayment meters, reducing bills for 5.8 million households

    –Requiring every energy company to offer social tariffs (special low rates for electricity and gas) to vulnerable households

    Very noble indeed, I will admit that! But wouldn’t interfering with a company’s pricing scheme fly in the face of free-market capitalism, Mr. Cameron-Hayek? Moreover, I am baffled by the fact that regarding health care, the Tories are vehemently advocating for consigning health services to the vagaries of the market, but for energy supply they call for social tariffs. I have never seen such an inconsistent set of proposals in my life.

  • Alan Quinn

    The French recently fired up the world’s first carbon capture and storage coal fired power station, as usual we, the British did much of the pioneering of CCS but then decided to do what we’re best at. That is to sit around with our fingers up our arses instead of getting on with developing the technology then exporting it to countries such as India and China.
    We’ve now decided to plan for nuclear, but still think private copanies will pay for the decommissioning of them plus the storage of the nuclear waste.

    I still can’t think what’s wromg with employing people to mine British coal for new CCS plants (we have 400 yrs worth of coal under our soil) or to build massive off shore or on shore wind farms with UK manufactured turbines. We need energy security.
    If the seas are to rise as much as you say Ally then the idea that a Severn Barrage will flood the surrounding wetlands becomes academic. The barrage would provide 5% of our needs and is guaranteed.
    Perhaps you could ask some of GB’s ministers about these points because I wrote three times to Lord Truscott and got one response which failed to answer my question and bugger all ever since.

    On a more postive side with rising sea levels at least Manchester will have a shore line to add to the many attractions that Britain’s best city has to offer!
    Anyone fancy two weeks on the Costa del Manc?

  • Ben

    I know that you and all the other Labour lot are convinced that global warming is a threat, etc, but not everyone is. In fact you all seem to swallow the pseudoscience and biased reporting of it remarkably happily, given your usual degree of cynicism. DC was just cleverly riding that wave, even if he is sincere about it personally. The kind of thing that you and Blair would have done, so it’s surprising that you seem surprised.

  • CPW

    Firsly, apologies Emmy. On reflection was very offensive and thought it would sound more offthecuff than it did. Sorry, dear.

    check out http://tinyurl.com/dydeuv for article on how EU can meet 2020 targets by looking to Africa and solar power.

  • philip

    were you at NP Monday seeing your team get beaten?I was!
    On a more (less)serious note I think labour has been suckered into trying to respond to the filth that emanates from certain blogs, including that one run by Paul what his face.
    Personally I wish you would kick more Tory arse. They are running the news agenda too easily for my liking.

  • Jane A

    What the UK needs to focus sustained attention on climate change is a figure to carry the flag – Al Gore (love him, hate him, whatever) had enough clout to make An Inconvenient Truth and sufficient force of personality so it got reviewed, commented upon, grabbed some centre stage.

    What the UK is lacking is someone – and I don’t believe it needs to be a party politician – who can garner that attention, gather that interest, backed up by facts, and a call to action that people here can relate to.

  • Em

    Thank you, CPW. I appreciate it.

    Interesting link, thanks. The article talks about covering initial costs but i wonder whether there are significant maintenance cost issues associated with the wind/solar “infrastructure” if I can call it that.

    Solar panels and wind farms do seem like sensible options. Glimmer of light.

  • kevin

    There is nothing like ‘The End of the World’ to scare the crap out of the masses & bring them on board to your way of thinking. Something religions have known for thousands of years – doom sells and covers a multitude of sins. I think climate change is a bit far off to work. Whose gonna be here in seventy or a hundred years time? What we need is the threat of nuclear war or something.

  • Gregory

    Bath plugs and loathsome e-mails do mean a bit to those of us who have been smeared by the labour party’s hired lunatics.

    It is all over, for that, as a project, you are finished, the people of Britain think labor politicians are a pack of lying bastards.

    That’s the short summary.

    Gregory

  • Tony

    I think there’s some elements of some of the comments on today’s post that point the way forward to shifting public opinion on climate change in a way that will create the space for real action (and make it a vote winner, for that matter).

    Charlotte and Em have put their fingers on the problem – we respond most readily to those issues which are close to us, and at the moment, climate change isn’t one of them.

    I commented in an earlier post that the argument for action climate change won’t be won until it’s an argument about something else – like national security in US, as Alina pointed out in that earlier post.

    The environment doesn’t vote, and not enough people value environmental experiences to vote on its behalf.

    When a mainstream Party (and I hope dearly that it’s Labour) hammer home the point that action will cost less than inaction, when the public discussion is about the number of jobs that will be lost if no action is taken, about how much higher the cost of living will be in a +4C world, policy and action will become inevitable.
    Framed this way, people can vote in their own self interest for policy which will make a real difference to their quality of life, which is, after all, the ultimate goal of good public policy. Em kind of said this today as well when she talked about ‘no more saving the planet. This about our own existence.’

    The real difficulty for Labour will be delivering this message in an environment where the prism AC outlined yesterday is as bad as it is.

    T

  • Tony

    Jane –

    While you’re right about the power of figureheads to harness public awareness of an issue, I’m always loathe to tie the future of an area of policy to an individual.

    When a message gets embodied into an individual, ad hominem attacks are much more effective. I’m always wary about giving opponents the opportunity to attack the man instead of the ball.

    The Australian experience shows that even leaders without an over-abundance of charisma (sorry, Kevin) can elevate climate change to an election-winning issue when it’s framed the right way.

    I don’t think looking for a British Gore or Obama is a realisitc tactic. In my experience, messiahs rarely turn out to have all the solutions anyway.

    T

  • Jane A

    Tony :

    Yep, good points, I don’t disagree: an over-reliance on one personality to lead the charge isn’t the total solution, neither is, God help us, another messiah of something or another.

    What I do think engages people’s attention is the fact that a high profile figure is prepared to give their time and energy for that cause, because even if they are just the messenger, they have access to global audiences (Geldof & Bono on Africa for example) which are hard for Joe WindFarm to reach.

    The responsibility for what next sits with the individuals as well as the Governments. But I feel to get people listening is a good first step.